'I'm not wet behind the ears': Hamilton back on track

Briton weathers the storms of Silverstone, and his private life, to evoke memories of Senna

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's chief executive, said it was something nobody in the team would forget. He was not talking about Ayrton Senna's triumphal domination of the weather at Donington Park back in 1993, though he certainly could have been. Instead, he was assessing Lewis Hamilton's majestic victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last week, which bore even the most forensic comparison with Senna's success.

In 2007, an insouciant Hamilton spent his rookie season embarrassing his infinitely more experienced team-mate, the double world champion Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was so bruised he decamped back to Renault in a degree of dudgeon similar to that with which Alain Prost quit McLaren for Ferrari back in 1990 when Senna ran him out of town.

Hamilton's pace had showed hitherto unsuspected flaws in Alonso's make-up. Where he had seemed so peerless in 2005 and 2006 as he saw off Michael Schumacher, now Alonso looked like a man who could be beaten.

When Hamilton delivered another victory, in the opening race in Australia, he seemed set for an invincible run in 2008. Then came a practice error in Bahrain, followed by a stall on the start line and a misjudgement when he ran into the back of Alonso early in the race. He made amends for that in Monte Carlo, where a brush with the wall on the fifth lap actually helped him to a stunning victory in the wet. Then the pit-lane error in Montreal, where he failed to see a red light and augered into the back of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, set him back again.

Not helped by his father's reaction to a critical media, Hamilton experienced a backlash for the first time and, having also failed to score in Magny-Cours in a dull French Grand Prix, he went to Silverstone knowing that something very special was required to get what looked like a faltering championship campaign back on track.

What he delivered to his adoring fans transcended special. He made a wonderful start, jumping from fourth on the grid to rub wheels with his polesitting team-mate Heikki Kovalainen as they vied for the lead.

That move did not quite come off, but five laps later he slipped ahead on the entry to the daunting Becketts corner in a move that, Kovalainen admitted later, knocked the stuffing out of him. From then on Hamilton held the race in an iron grip that simply crushed everybody else, and won by more than a minute.

Throughout his recent trials he has maintained an outwardly even demeanour and not let the situation around him get on top of him. That is an interesting sign that he can weather such storms even if those closest to him are troubled by them. And boy, can he ever drive in the rain.

"There is nothing really I could take from Ayrton in the wet," he said, when the inevitable comparisons were drawn. "All I know is that he was spectacular in the wet, and growing up I knew that was something I wanted to master too. All my career I have worked very, very hard to become good in the wet. I am very sensitive, very comfortable in the wet, it comes naturally.

"And it hasn't been a matter of getting my mind right, it was always right, but I've just had a lot on my plate really. Some things in my personal life, nothing too serious, life in general. I want to win, I work hard, and I never have any doubts about my abilities, so I just keep pushing and eventually get there."

Sir Frank Williams said back in January that we were in for a wonderful season of racing and he was right, with Hamilton and his Ferrari rivals, Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, all level on 48 points heading into next weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and Robert Kubica on 46.

Aerodynamic and mechanical changes have significantly improved the McLaren's balance, leading to a timely uplift in performance as Silverstone marked the season's midpoint. There, Ferrari looked worse than they really were because of strategic errors, but Hamilton believes he now has the tools to fight them for the rest of the year. "It's too early to say for sure," he said, "but we have made some very good steps."

And, as the FIA president Max Mosley's tawdry sex case drags through the courts, Hamilton boosted his troubled sport and spoke like a philosopher king who knows his crown awaits at season's end as he reflected on his upturn in fortune.

"Martin Luther King said something: 'It is not the times when we triumph and are successful that make us who we are, but the times when we are at our worst and going through our troubles that really build us and make us who we are.'

"That's a long way off the actual quote," he admitted, "but that's a very important thing." As important as victory at Silverstone.

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'